Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Far Away Galaxy Under The Microscope

17.08.2006
SINFONI Discovers Rapidly Forming, Large Proto-Disc Galaxies Three Billion Years After The Big Bang

An international group of astronomers have discovered large disc galaxies akin to our Milky Way that must have formed on a rapid time scale, only 3 billion years after the Big Bang. In one of these systems, the combination of adaptive optics techniques with the new SINFONI spectrograph on ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) resulted in a record-breaking resolution of a mere 0.15 arcsecond, giving an unprecedented detailed view of the anatomy of such a distant proto-disc galaxy.

“We have been able, for the first time, to obtain well resolved, two dimensional images of the gas motions in distant star forming galaxies, whose light has traveled more than 11 billion years to the Earth,” said Reinhard Genzel, lead author of a paper in this week’s issue of Nature in which these results are presented.

This tells the story how galaxies looked like a mere 3 billion years after the Big Bang.

Over the past decade astronomers have established a global framework of how galaxies formed and evolved when the Universe was only a few billion years old. Gas of ordinary matter cooled and collected in concentrations of the mysterious ‘dark’ matter (so called dark matter halos). Since that time and up to the present epoch collisions and mergers of galaxies subsequently led to the hierarchical build-up of galaxy mass. This general picture leaves open, however, on what timescales galaxies were assembled and when and how bulges and discs, the primary components of present day galaxies, were formed.

A major study of distant, luminous star forming galaxies at ESO’s VLT, the ‘SINS’ (Spectroscopic Imaging Survey in the Near-Infrared with SINFONI) survey, has now resulted in a major break-through on these questions. This study exploited SINFONI [1], a novel infrared ‘integral field spectrometer’ that simultaneously delivers sharp images, with adaptive optics, and highly resolved colour information (spectra) of an object on the sky.

In the case of the galaxy BzK155043 at cosmological redshift 2.4, the SINFONI observations achieved an angular resolution of 0.15”, a mere 4000 light years at the distance of this high redshift galaxy. With this superior angular resolution the data reveal the physical and dynamical properties in unprecedented detail. Surprisingly the observations reveal a large and massive rotating proto-disc that is channeling gas toward a growing central stellar bulge. The high gas surface densities, the large star formation rate and the moderately young stellar ages derived from these observations suggest that the system was assembled rapidly, by fragmentation and star formation in an initially very gas rich proto-disc. SINS observations of several other massive, high redshift galaxies give similar results.

“When we started the SINS programme,” said Genzel, “we expected to see mostly irregular and perhaps even chaotic motions caused by the frequent merger activity in the young Universe. We were in for a major surprise when we found a number of large, rotating and gas rich disc galaxies whose properties are quite similar to the present day Milky Way”.

The fact that these galaxies are so large and rotate rapidly indicates that the gas has a similar amount of rotation as the dark matter halo from which it cooled, thus empirically solving an important question of galaxy formation.

Natascha Förster Schreiber, lead author of another recent SINS paper in the Astrophysical Journal said: “We now need to understand how these early proto-discs evolved subsequently in time. Our suspicion is that they might not have been stable.”

The SINFONI data suggest that the proto-discs may have eventually been transformed to dense elliptical galaxies, either by internal processes, such as the spectacular gas inflows observed in BzK15504, or by collisions and mergers with other galaxies, which were frequent in the dense environments in which the high redshift luminous star forming galaxies appear to reside in.

Another important aspect of the work are the very high star formation rates deduced for many of the luminous star forming high redshift galaxies, about one hundred times greater than in the present-day Milky Way.

“We have a growing body of evidence that massive galaxies formed much more rapidly in the redshift range 2-3 than originally anticipated,” said Andrea Cimatti, team member from the University of Bologna. “The new SINFONI data give us a first glimpse what processes might be involved.”

The SINS programme on the VLT is a stunning demonstration of what is going to be possible in the next few years with the combination of integral field spectroscopy and adaptive optics.

Henri Boffin | alfa
Further information:
http://www.eso.org/outreach/press-rel/pr-2006/pr-31-06.html

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: LaserTAB: More efficient and precise contacts thanks to human-robot collaboration

At the productronica trade fair in Munich this November, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be presenting Laser-Based Tape-Automated Bonding, LaserTAB for short. The experts from Aachen will be demonstrating how new battery cells and power electronics can be micro-welded more efficiently and precisely than ever before thanks to new optics and robot support.

Fraunhofer ILT from Aachen relies on a clever combination of robotics and a laser scanner with new optics as well as process monitoring, which it has developed...

Im Focus: The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet

Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.

A warming planet

Im Focus: Highly precise wiring in the Cerebral Cortex

Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.

The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...

Im Focus: Tiny lasers from a gallery of whispers

New technique promises tunable laser devices

Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...

Im Focus: Ultrafast snapshots of relaxing electrons in solids

Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!

When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

“Lasers in Composites Symposium” in Aachen – from Science to Application

19.09.2017 | Event News

I-ESA 2018 – Call for Papers

12.09.2017 | Event News

EMBO at Basel Life, a new conference on current and emerging life science research

06.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Fraunhofer ISE Pushes World Record for Multicrystalline Silicon Solar Cells to 22.3 Percent

25.09.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Usher syndrome: Gene therapy restores hearing and balance

25.09.2017 | Health and Medicine

An international team of physicists a coherent amplification effect in laser excited dielectrics

25.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>